What is Gurpurab?
Gurpurab is a festival celebrated across India and the world. It is one of several religious festivals in Sikhism observed to commemorate and remember the birth and philosophy of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru and founder of Sikhism. The word “Gurpurab” comes from the wor
ds “Gur” which means guru and “purab”, deriving from the Hindu word “parv”, meaning day. Gurpurab is celebrated as the day to remember the holy guru, and is a reminder for the followers of Sikhism to remember his teachings and overcome the five vices; lust, greed, attachment, pride, and devoting one’s life in the selfless service of God. This year, Gurpurab will be celebrated on November 30th, marking the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The Sikh community celebrates the birth anniversary of all the 10 Sikh Gurus but this one has the most significance as he is the first Guru and the founder of the religion.
History of Gurpurab
Guru Nanak was born in a village named Rai Bhoi di Talwandi. It is presently known as Nankana Sahib, near Lahore, Pakistan. He was a firm believer that an individual can connect to God through prayers, he never followed a religion that forced people to make sacrifices. Guru Nanak was married at the age of 18 and had two sons. When Guru Nanak turned 28, he disappeared for three days. Upon returning, he said that there is no Hindu or Muslim, but only one formless God that could be worshipped by all. All the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji are in the sacred book Guru Granth Sahib
How is Gurpurab Celebrated?
Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak brought enlightenment to the world, hence the festival is also called Prakash Utsav, meaning the “birth of light”. The celebrations start with the three day Akhand Path, in which the Guru Grainth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs) is read continuously from beginning to end, with no breaks, at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) are usually beautifully decorated with lights and earthen lamps. The conclusion of the reading coincides with the day of the festival. The holy book is decorated with flowers and is taken out in a procession called “Prabhat Pheri”. The Prabhat Pheri starts from the temple and moves to different locations where the devotees sing hymns (“Shabads”) and return.
Sikhs around the world visit Gurdwaras where kirtans (religious songs) are sung. Free sweets and lunch, known as Langar are offered to all people, regardless of their caste, creed or religion. Many people from the community offer Seva, which is selfless service, such as cooking and serving the community lunch. The signature dish of the celebration is called Kada Prasad, which is a traditional sweet made of wheat flour, pure ghee (clarified butter), and sugar. In some Gurdwaras, festivities go on post-sunset. Devotees sing Gurbani which refers to compositions by the Sikh gurus from the Guru Granth Sahib.